Kasper Asgreen becomes first Dane to win Flanders since 1997
Annemiek van Vleuten wins women's race in emphatic style
Kasper Asgreen took the biggest victory of his career on Sunday when he beat Mathieu van der Poel to win the Tour of Flanders.
Just over a week after winning E3 Saxo Bank Classic when the Dane benefited from some textbook tactics from his Deceuninck-Quick Step team, Asgreen played it cool at the end of the 254.3-kilometre race from Antwerp to Oudenaarde before beating defending champion and pre-race favourite Van der Poel in a two-up sprint.
Having arrived at the Tour of Flanders with arguably the strongest squad, Asgreen managed to get into a six-man group alongside team-mate and world champion Julian Alaphilippe, Van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix), Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and Bahrain Victorious duo Marco Haller and Dylan Teuns. Once Anthony Turgis (Total Direct Énergie) had bridged over, however, Asgreen caused a split whittling the group down to just three riders, the Dane taking with him Van der Poel and Van Aert. One further attack from Van der Poel on the penultimate climb of the day, on the cobbled Oude Kwaremont distanced his great rival Van Aert.
As each kilometre clicked by most predicted that Van der Poel would win a sprint between the pair. In a tense finale reminiscent of last year's race, Van der Poel, sat on the front, peering over his shoulder watching Asgreen's every move before opening up his sprint.
Van der Poel, however, ultimately ran out of gas 70 metres from the line allowing Asgreen to take the first monument of his career.
Annemiek van Vleuten (Movistar) won the 18th edition of the women's race after the Dutch rider attacked on the final climb of the day, the cobbled Paterberg, before soloing all the way to the line. It was the 38-year-old's second victory of the season following last week's win at Dwars door Vlaanderen and her second Tour of Flanders title after first winning here in 2011. Lisa Brennauer (Ceratizit-WNT) was second, Grace Brown (BikeExchange) third.
In a statement from Movistar, Van Vleuten outlined her race strategy while saying it was a 'special day' for the Spanish team that has never before won a cobbled monument, in either men's or women's racing.
"I still can't believe it. It's been so many years seeking for another victory here, and today it finally happened. I was always super prepared heading into this race, but I always came on the verge of success," she said. "Our strategy for today was never letting other teams use their strength in numbers against us. That's why we started working early and that's why I tried from so far away from the finish. I wanted to just go on the Kanarieberg, but there was a headwind and that made difficult to open any gaps. However, I feel like that attack took its toll on the group and made things more difficult for everybody, which suited me well.
"After that move, I had to seek for another appropriate moment to try it. At the Paterberg, I knew there were no second chances left, and I had to enter first, exit first. After that attack, it was just doing my maximum and counting the kilometres down. I was so tired, but I could just go 'full gas' until the finish. It wasn't easy at all, but we finally got it again.
"It's a really special day for the Movistar Team, which had never won a classic like that, and it's really beautiful to live these moments with them. Thanks to the whole team, for their fantastic job once again; they all played a part in this success. Also to Telefónica and our sponsors, and everybody who loves and supports us."
Asgreen has done it!
Kasper Asgreen (Elegant-Quick Step) has beaten Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) to take the biggest win of his career. Oh my, what a performance from the Danish national champion. Van der Poel opened up his sprint first but simply ran out of energy around 70 metres from the line allowing Asgreen to get the better of him.
While the Elegant-Quick Step rider roared his way over the line in celebration, Van der Poel shook his head in disappointment. The Dutchman did, however, go straight over to Asgreen to congratulate the first Dane to win the Tour of Flanders since Rolf Sorensen in 1997. Greg Van Avermaet (Ag2r-Citroën), meanwhile, takes third.
After winning last month's E3 Saxo Bank Classic, Asgreen has now added a first monument on his growing palmarès. Speaking immediately afterwards, he said the victory was down to 'margins'.
"I felt good in the last kilometres still so I decided to try and trust my sprint. Going into the last kilometre I got Mathieu on the front and I heard we still had more than 30 seconds so I decided to stay in the wheel, so I could decide when to go. It was a really hard race. We were both on the limit. It was a question of the margins at the end.
"It's incredible," a delighted Asgreen told Eurosport. "Rolf gave me some good advice after I won E3. It's been an incredible classics campaign this year and I'm so happy to finish it off like this."
"It was the plan to start to jumping after the second time up the Kwaremont and we did. We rode a perfect race all day. The guys were incredible — a huge thanks to them. A huge thanks to Tom [Steels] and Wilfried [Peeters] in the car. They prepared this race so well and we know every single metre of the course. It's just an incredible team to be a part of."
500 metres to go
This is like a facsimile of last year's finale. But can Mathieu van der Poel do it again, or has Kasper Asgreen got the measure of him here? The Dane is playing this cool and not responding just yet.
1km to go
Mathieu van der Poel rolls beneath the flamme rouge peering over his left shoulder, staring into the eyes of Kasper Asgreen.
2km to go
Mathieu van der Poel and Kasper Asgreen's advantage is holding at 35sec.
2.7km to go
Greg Van Avermaet launches himself from the chasing group.
3km to go
Kasper Asgreen and Mathieu van der Poel are doing short turns now.
4km to go
Lots of looking around in the chasing group, though in reality they will be scrapping over third place here today.
5km to go
Kasper Asgreen, as you will know, was runner-up here to Alberto Bettiol on 2019 but is he happy to settle for another second spot today, or will he throw a Hail Mary of an attack? I may be wrong, but just cannot see him beating Van der Poel in a sprint.
7km to go
The beast that is Mathieu van der Poel is looking his usual relaxed self, while Kasper Asgreen is rising out of his saddle. Is that a sign of fatigue, or is he about to launch an attack?
9km to go
Wout van Aert clips off the front of the chasing group, but he looks spent. There's just no way he can bridge over to Kasper Asgreen and Mathieu van der Poel who are working well together.
10km to go
Kasper Asgreen flicks an elbow as he lets Mathieu van der Poel to roll through. The pair lead by 30sec and Wout van Aert is back in the chasing group.
12km to go
Mathieu van der Poel and Kasper Asgreen gain a handful of seconds on Wout van Aert. As it stands you would imagine Van der Poel is the favourite to win here today, but who knows. Can the Dane pull off something special, or will the Alpecin-Fenix leader become the first rider since Fabian Cancellara in 2014 to successfully defend his title?
14km to go — Paterberg
Mathieu van der Poel leads the way onto the Peterberg, the Dutchman riding side-by-side with Kasper Asgreen. Wout van Aert is weaving across the road 11sec down the road.
15km to go
Mathieu van der Poel and Kasper Asgreen lead Wout van Aert by 12sec.
17km to go
Mathieu van der Poel puts the hammer down on the Oude Kwaremont. The big Dutchman stomps down on his cranks just shy of the summit and Wout van Aert is unable to hold his wheel. Kasper Asgreen, however, can and this may be the final, decisive, move of the day.
18km to go — Oude Kwaremont
Mathieu van der Poel, Kasper Asgreen and Wout van Aert inche their way up the third and final ascent of the Oude Kwaremont. Is Asgreen going to attack once over the top? I suspect if he were to go all the way to the finishing line then the Dane would be third in a sprint, so the time trial specialist may need to be clever here today.
20km to go
Julian Alaphilippe is moments away from getting caught by the group containing Tom Pidcock and Greg Van Avermaet, but surely the leading trio will not allow them to close them down. Will they?
21km to go
Mathieu van der Poel, Wout van Aert and Kasper Asgreen lead by 24sec with two climbs — Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg — remaining.
23km to go
Julian Alaphilippe is constantly looking around, peering over his left shoulder. Is the world champion going to chase down the leading trio, or is he looking out for a team-mate from the third group on the road? I imagine he would not chase down a team-mate, but only time will tell.
25km to go
That leading trio holds a 15sec advantage on Julian Alaphilippe et al, while the Tom Pidcock group is around 40sec down the road.
26km to go
Mathieu van der Poel, Wout van Aert and Kasper Asgreen lead the race. Julian Alaphilippe, Anthony Turgis and Bahrain Victorious team-mates Marco Haller and Dylan Teuns are unable to respond.
27km to go
Marco Haller rolls off the front of the leading group, taking with him Anthony Turgis. Kasper Asgreen, however, responds, taking with him the two pre-race favourites Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert
28km to go
Once over the top of the Kruisberg, Julian Alaphilippe attacks but is unable to dislodge Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert who are glued to his wheel. And Anthony Turgis has managed to bridge over to the leading protagonists.
29km to go
Though I am sure he is in a whole world of pain, Kasper Asgreen is looking relatively comfortable on this gnarly cobbled climb.
30km to go
The race leaders hit the bottom of the Kruisberg climb. Once over the top there is one more ascent of the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg.
31km to go
Tom Pidcock is again on the front of the chasing group. The gap is down to just 7sec.
34km to go
We have two Elegant-Quick Step riders (Julian Alaphilippe and Kasper Asgreen), two Bahrian Victorious (Marco Haller and Dylan Teuns) along with defending champion Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) and his great rival Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) in the leading group. Has the final selection been made? It would appear so and despite looking strong earlier, Tom Pidcock may have missed the decisive move. The 21-year-old is in the chasing group along with Ineos Grenadiers team-mate Dylan van Baarle and a handful of others including Greg Van Avermaet and Anthony Turgis.
37km to go
Kasper Asgreen is hauling himself up the Taaienberg, only to be replaced on the front by Mathieu van der Poel. Wout van Aert is riding in the wheels as is Julian Alaphilippe. Marco Haller is caught, but now has team-mate Dylan Teuns for company.
40km to go
Tom Pidcock rolls off the front of the leading group, though he is soon replaced by Marco Haller who has been looking good throughout the cobbled campaign. Not sure the big names will be too concerned about the Austrian though, he may struggle on the incoming climbs and one suspects the likes of Julian Alaphilippe, Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert et al will regain contact on these bergs.
42km to go
Julian Alaphilippe and Stefan Bissegger are caught by Mathieu van der Poel, Wout van Aert, Anthony Turgis, Tom Pidcock, Christophe Laporte, Tim Wellens and Marco Haller (Bahrain Victorious).
43km to go
Julian Alaphilippe joins forces with Stefan Bissegger and the duo are over the top of the brutish Koppenberg and leading the race. Mathieu van der Poel is on the front of the chasing group, Tom Pidcock is in there. Unfortunately there are no time splits so don't think the gap is too big.
44km to go — Koppenberg
Julian Alaphilippe has attacked on the Koppenberg! Tom Pidcock is giving chase, but the big guns are looming. Wout van Aert looks to be tiring.
45km to go
Kasper Asgreen and Mathieu van der Poel, by the way, are in the third group on the road with Wout van Aert a handful of seconds behind Julian Alaphilippe, Tom Pidcock and a posse of others.
48km to go
Julian Alaphilippe has clipped off the front of what was the main group. The world champion has Christophe Laporte (Cofidis) for company. Tom Pidcock is sat on the front of a chasing group, perhaps doing too much of the work as the 21-year-old pulls along Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain Victorious).
50km to go — Paterberg
Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) leads the way onto the Paterberg, before Kasper Asgreen and Mathieu van der Poel, once again, move to the front, and go over the top like two heavyweight boxers landing punches on each other. Tom Pidcock, by the way, is in the group a few metres behind the duelling pair. Stefan Bissegger still leads the race, the Swiss has 30sec on the remnatas of the earlier breakaway while Asgreen and Van der Poel are another 30sec down the road.
53km to go — Showtime!
Once over the Oude Kwaremont and onto the smooth asphalt, Mathieu van der Poel gains an advantage taking with him Kasper Asgreen. The peloton, however, reacts knowing it cannot afford to give the big Dutchman an inch of road.
54km to go
Stefan Küng is the latest man to crash, the Groupama-FDJ rider hitting the deck heavily. Almost immediately, Julian Alaphilippe presses on while Mathieu van der Poel is quick to respond.
Last man standing!
Stefan Bissegger (EF Education-Nippo) is the lone leader . . . if he can hold this lead for another 55km then the young mna will become the first Swiss since Fabian Cancellara to win the Tour of Flanders (he will not hold on all the way).
56km to go
Another crash. Immediately after a tight rind-hander three or four rider clip handlebars and hit the deck heavily. Joris Nieuwenhuis (DSM) went down, as did Owain Doull.
The breakaway is splitting up on the Oude Kwaremont.
57km to go
Jumbo-Visma have four riders dead centre of the speeding bunch, flying down a descent on the approach to the second climb of the Oude Kwaremont.
60km to go
Damien Gaudin is stomping away on his pedals on the front now, the Frenchman who eats cobbles for breakfast has Total Direct Énergie team-mates Edvald Boasson Hagen and Anthony Turgis tucked in closely behind.
62km to go
Ineos Grenadiers have around three or four riders on the front — Owain Doull, Ethan Hayter and Tom Pidcock, while Kasper Asgreen has managed to chase back on to the rear of the bunch.
64km to go
Julian Alaphilippe has regained contact with the peloton that trails the leaders by 2mins. Plenty of riders are looking around at each other, monitoring who is present and who has gone missing in action.
Big crash back in the peloton. Julian Alaphilippe went down, as did team-mate Kasper Asgreen and another Elegant-Quick Step rider. Two Alpecin-Fenix riders hit the deck too.
67km to go
British rider Connor Swift (Arkéa-Samsic) is getting involved on the front of the peloton, the injection in pace cancelling out Soren Kragh Andersen.
69km to go
Soren Kragh Andersen has gained around 10secs on the main hitters. The DSM rider won two stages at last year's Tour de France after ghosting of the front. Of course, he's a very long way out from Oudenaarde and so you would imagine he would get caught. But he's a dangerous rider.
70km to go
Soren Kragh Andersen (DSM) makes a move off the front. He's a strong rider and nobody can afford to allow the Dane too much space here.
71km to go
Jumbo-Visma have four riders on the front of the bunch that is speeding along at 67km/h on the approach to the bottom of the Kanarieberg climb.
75km to go
Alpecin-Fenix are well positioned on the front of the bunch as it edges up the cobbled Berg Ten Houte climb. Once over the top they will be around 3km from the Kanarieberg and about 20km from the second ascent of the Oude Kwaremont, quickly followed by the first of two climbs over the Paterberg and then the Koppenberg.
78km to go
Nils Eekhof (DSM) has a horrible looking crash. The Dutchman was riding in the peloton before appearing to lose control of his front wheel and propelling himself over his handlebars. Thankfully he was soon back on his feet, but I wouldn't be surprised if he is forced to abandon. Either way, he will be hurting over the next few days.
82km to go
All back as one in the chasing group, Sep Vanmarcke (Israel Start-up Nation) is up near the front just behind Davide Ballerini and Kasper Asgreen who are looking lively.
85km to go
The seven-man breakaway continues to lead, though their advantage is down to below four minutes now.
Towards the rear of the chasing group, Lukas Pöstlberger appears cooked which will leave his Bora-Hansgrohe team-mate Peter Sagan a man down. On the front, that earlier move instigated by Kevin Geniets fizzled out before Davide Ballerini put in another short attack in an effort to split the group. It looks very much like Elegant-Quick Step are wanting to put the pressure on Wout van Aert and Matieu van der Poel.
89km to go
Mads Pedersen, the former world champion, was dropped on the Berendries climb a few moments ago. The Trek-Segafredo rider has not enjoyed the best of seasons thus far, and it does not look like things will be improving today.
90km to go
Kevin Geniets (Groupama-FDJ) clips off the front of the peloton, the Luxembourg national champion is chased down by Davide Ballerini (Elegant-Quick Step), Edward Theuns (Trek-Segafredo), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Total Direct Énergie), Luke Rowe (Ineos Grenadiers), Boy van Poppel (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), Bryan Coquard (B&B Hotels p/b KTM), Nathan Van Hooydonck (Jumbo-Visma), Stan Dewulf (Ag2r-Citroën) and Joris Nieuwenhuis (DSM)
94km to go
Warren Barguil (Arkéa-Samsic), the Frenchman who is making his debut here today, has had a mechanical issue at possibly the worst time. The big guns are drilling it on the front of a relatively wide stretch of road. Once again, plenty of jockeying for position. Interesting to note that Ineos Grenadiers have four or five riders near the front.
95km to go
The peloton is strung out in a long line as it weaves through yet another small Belgian town, a split has appeared around two thirds down. Bert Van Lerberghe (Elegant-Quick Step) is riding hard on the front and the gap on the race leaders has dropped to 5min 45sec.
99km to go
Sharp left-hander into the Molenberg and Elegant-Quick Step have four riders — Bert Van Lerberghe, Kasper Asgreen, Davide Ballerini and Julian Alaphilippe — on the front. Despite having a numerical advantage, they did not turn the screw there.
Another one bites the dust . . .
Michael Schär's day has gone from bad to worse and the Ag2r-Citroën rider has been disqualified after throwing an empty bottle aside. The Swiss obviously forgot about the new rules covering littering that were brought in by the UCI on April 1.
Anyone for cyclo-cross?
Tom Pidcock managed to catch himself out a few minutes ago, the 21-year-old going the wrong side of a barrier as he attempted to make some ground on his rivals.
106km to go
Five or six Elegant-Quick Step riders right at the front of the peloton. Trek-Segafredo's riders, by contrast, are littered throughout the bunch. Their main man Mads Pedersen, however, is looking good at the pointy end with team-mate Jasper Stuyven.
110km to go
Alpecin-Fenix, Elegant-Quick Step, Jumbo-Visma, Bora-Hansgrohe and Israel Start-up Nation all have riders positioned on the front of the peloton. Basically, all of the hitters are there or thereabouts and are nibbling away at the breakaway's advantage which has now dropped to just below eight minutes.
112km to go
Next up for the breakaway is the Wolvenberg, the fifth of the 19 climbs in today's race. Although very steep, the road is covered in asphalt which will make things a little easier.
114km to go
Big battle for position in the peloton as it nears the approach to the Eikenberg.
115km to go
Not for the first time today, Michael Schär (Ag2r-Citroën) has endured a mechanical and lost contact with the peloton as it neared to summit of the Kortekeer climb, while the breakaway goes over the Eikenberg almost 9mins up the road.
117km to go
Alpecin-Fenix now has four riders around their leader Mathieu van der Poel up near the front of the peloton as it weaves along a narrow lane, roughly wide enough for just one vehicle. The breakaway has dropped further to 8min 51sec.
120km to go
Great photograph here to illustrate the dangers of multiple road surfaces. If you look down the middle, there is a gap that is roughly the width of a bike wheel. Get stuck in here and a riders' race could be over. While over to the left hand side there is a gulley, and then again a strip of cobbles. Riding safely across these can be exhausting, both physically and mentally, and are often underestimated as the focus is placed on the cobbled sections and brutish climbs.
126km to go
The peloton has completed the first ascent of the Oude Kwaremont, their deficit on the breakaway having dropped a little further to 9min 51sec. Elegant-Quick Step have numbers up near the front, Trek-Segafredo, Jumbo-Visma, Lotto-Sodal and Bahrain Victorious are there too. Alpecin-Fenix, meanwhile, appear happy to allow the big WorldTour teams do much of the heavy lifting. For now, at least.
129km to go
Tom Pidcock is riding at around fifth or six wheels on the first ascent of the Oude Kwaremont, Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel some way back, while Greg van Avermaet is stuck near the rear.
132km to go
A sharp left-hander sees a big battle for position near the front of the peloton as it approaches the Oude Kwaremont. UAE Team Emirates move towards the front, making sure former winner Alexander Kristoff is well positioned. He's an absolute master at this type of move, making sure he's near the front before sliding back through the group and regaining contact once over the top. He's incredibly consistent at this race, and nobody will want to take the big powerful sprinter all the way to the line today.
133km to go
The breakaway has gone over the top of the Oude Kwaremont, losing time in the process. However, the peloton is around seven minutes from the bottom of that cobbled climb so it will be interesting to see what that gap is like once they have tackled it.
135km to go
The breakaway in onto the first of three ascents of the Oude Kwaremont and it is eerily quiet. Their lead on the peloton is down to 11min 15sec. Ordinarily this 2.2km cobbled climb is mobbed by cycling fanatics, enjoying some frites and the odd beer. Not today.
140km to go
Just spotted the moustachioed Luke Rowe tucked in behind Julian Alaphilippe. The Welshman who loves these tough one-day races is one of four Britons in the Ineos Grenadiers team, including two debutants Ethan Hayter and Tom Pidcock. Hayter, interestingly, is one of two riders from VC Londres — the south London cycling club based at Herne Hill velodrome — riding today. The other, Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious), made his debut here last year.
Most eyes, though, will be focused on Pidcock who has enjoyed a great start to his professional career having finished fifth at Strade Bianche and 15th at Milan-Sanremo.
Normal service has resumed . . .
151km to go
The seven-man breakaway is onto the second cobbled section of the day, the 1,500-metre long Holleweg. Back in to peloton and Edoardo Affini is leading the way on behalf of his Jumbo-Visma team. Interesting to not that Total Direct Énergie have a few riders near the front. Although the French squad is not part of the WorldTour, they have a strong looking team here today and I would not be surprised to see Anthony Turgis challenging at the pointy end of the race. Assuming Turgis is the team's leader today, then he has team-mates Edvald Boasson Hagen, Damien Gaudin and former winner Niki Terpstra to support his ambitions. That's some firepower.
153km to go
World champion Julian Alaphilippe (Elegant-Quick Step) is just spotted chatting with Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe). Sagan, of course, won here in 2016 and although he is not the dominant force he once was, has shown some form recently — fourth at Milan-Sanremo and a stage winner at Volta a Catalunya — and so I would not discount him from doing something here today.
The breakaway is inching up the Kattenberg, but those cobbles look fairly benign. The peloton will follow in around 12 minutes.
158km to go
Still early in the race, but just as the peloton approached the first section of cobbles in today's race, Elegant-Quick Step move up towards the front of the group which is a wise move, as further back a number of riders are delayed having been caught out. Not too far away from the first climb of the day, the Kattenberg, which is just 800 metres in length and should not cause too many issues. Breakaway's advantage is at 12 minutes.
What no Tractor?
Interesting, the man that is known as El Tractor — Tim Declercq — is not riding on the front of the peloton. I will repeat that: Tim Declercq is not riding on the front. Declercq, one of the best domestiques in world cycling ordinarily positions himself on the front, however it appears that today his team Elegant-Quick Step look happy to allow Jumbo-Visma to take control. Jumbo-Visma, of course, will be hoping to set up Wout van Aert here today, while the Belgian super-team Elegant-Quick Step have a handful of riders that could challenge.
While Julian Alaphilippe is their obvious leader, Kasper Asgreen, Davide Ballerini or Florian Sénéchal may also fancy their chances. Equally Yves Lampaert could also land a big one today should the stars align in his favour. Either way, Elegant-Quick Step have the strongest looking team and as we saw at the E3 race a couple of weeks back, on their day they can work over the likes of pre-race favourites Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) and Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) with ease. In order to do that, though, they will need to have almost all of their riders up near the front of the bunch at the key point in the race — in other words, at the bottom of the Koppenberg, Taaienberg, Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg climbs.
Already we have seen Greg Van Avermaet (Ag2r-Citroën) and Tom Van Asbroeck (Israel Start-up Nation) clip off the front of the peloton to go and greet some friends or, most likely, family members at the roadside. The very fact that the bunch is happy for them to do this pretty much tells us everything we need to know about the state of play on the road right now: everybody is taking it relatively easy on the approach to the first cobbled sector of the day.
The breakaway has increased its advantage to 11min 18sec with 172km to go.
Early controversy . . .
So today's race got under way a little over an hours ago, the peloton rolling out of the port city of Antwerp at a fairly leisurely pace. Weather-wise it is fairly still and although not especially sunny, it is not too cold. The peloton is fairly evenly split between those riders wearing leg warmers and jackets/gilets, and those with exposed legs.
A flurry of early attacks kicked off proceedings, leading to Stefan Bissegger (EF Education-Nippo) instigating the move that led to a breakaway forming. Bissegger, the Swiss neo-pro who won the time trial at last month's Paris-Nice, was soon joined by Mathias Norsgaard (Movistar), Mathijs Paasschens (Bingoal Wallonnie Bruxelles), Fabio Van Den Bossche (Sport Vlaanderen Baloise) and Jelle Wallays (Cofidis) before Nico Denz (DSM) and Hugo Houle (Astana-Premier Tech) bridged over to form a seven-man group. As it stands, that breakaway leads by a shade over 10 minutes with just under 185km of the race remaining.
The big talking point of the day, thus far at least, has been a coming together between Yevgeniy Fedorov (Astana-Premier Tech) and Otto Vergaerde (Alpecin-Fenix) — see above. Fedorov, the Kazakh neo-pro, appeared to touch his brakes while on the front of the bunch which upset a number of riders that were sat on his wheel. While a number of riders gesticulated in his direction, Vergaerde reacted. As a result, both riders have been kicked off the race and one of the pre-race favourites — that's Mathieu van der Poel for anybody who has been living in a cave — is already a man down and the race has yet to reach its first cobbled sector of climb.
Who was on the starting line this morning?
WorldTour teams . . .
Ag2r-Citroën (Fra): Stan Dewulf (Bel), Lawrence Naesen (Bel), Oliver Naesen (Bel), Michael Schär (Swi), Damien Touzé (Fra), Greg Van Avermaet (Bel), Gijs Van Hoecke (Bel).
Astana-Premier Tech (Kaz): Yevgeniy Fedorov (Kaz, neo-pro), Yevgeniy Gidich (Kaz), Dmitriy Gruzdev (Kaz), Hugo Houle (Can), Ben Perry (Can), Nikita Stalnov (Kaz), Artyom Zakharov (Kaz).
Bahrain Victorious (Brn): Sonny Colbrelli (Ita), Marco Haller (Aut), Heinrich Haussler (Aus), Jonathan Milan (Ita, neo-pro), Marcel Sieberg (Ger), Dylan Teuns (Bel), Fred Wright (GB, neo-pro).
BikeExchange (Aus): Jack Bauer (NZ), Luke Durbridge (Aus), Alex Edmondson (Aus), Amund Grondahl Jansen (Nor), Michael Mathews (Aus), Luka Mezgec (Slo), Robert Stannard (Aus).
Bora-Hansgrohe (Ger): Maciej Bodnar (Pol), Marcus Burghardt (Ger), Patrick Gamper (Aut, neo-pro), Daniel Oss (Ita), Nils Politt (Ger), Lukas Pöstlberger (Aut), Peter Sagan (Svk).
Cofidis, Solutions Crédits (Fra): Piet Allegaert (Bel), Tom Bohli (Swi), Andre Carvalho (Por), Jempy Drucker (Lux), Christophe Laporte (Fra), Kenneth Vanbilsen (Bel), Jelle Wallays (Bel).
Deceuninck-Quick Step (Bel): Julian Alaphilippe (Fra), Kasper Asgreen (Den), Davide Ballerini (Ita), Tim Declercq (Bel), Yves Lampaert (Bel), Florian Sénéchal (Fra), Bert Van Lerberghe (Bel).
DSM (Ger): Nikias Arndt (Ger), Tiesj Benoot (Bel), Nico Denz (Ger), Nils Eekhoff (Hol, neo-pro), Soren Kragh Andersen (Den), Joris Nieuwenhuis (Hol), Jasha Sütterlin (Ger).
EF Education-Nippo (US): Alberto Bettiol (Ita), Stefan Bissegger (Swi, neo-pro), Jens Keukeleire (Bel), Sebastian Langeveld (Hol), Jonas Rutsch (Ger, neo-pro), Tom Scully (NZ), Michael Valgren (Den).
Groupama-FDJ (Fra): Antione Duchesne (Can), Kevin Geniets (Hol), Stefan Küng (Swi), Mathieu Ladagnous (Fra), Olivier Le Gac (Fra), Tobias Ludvigsson (Swe), Valentin Madouas (Fra).
Ineos Grenadiers (GB): Leonardo Basso (Ita), Owain Doull (GB), Michal Golas (Pol), Ethan Hayter (GB, neo-pro), Tom Pidcock (GB, neo-pro), Luke Rowe (GB), Dylan van Baarle (Hol).
Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux (Bel): Aimé De Gendt (Bel), Wesley Kreder (Hol), Taco van der Hoorn (Hol), Boy van Poppel (Hol), Danny van Poppel (Hol), Pieter Vanspeybrouck (Bel), Loïc Vliegen (Bel).
Israel Start-up Nation (Isr): Jenthe Biermans (Bel), Guillaume Boivin (Can), Hugo Hofstetter (Fra), Reto Hollenstein (Swi), Alexis Renard (Fra, neo-pro), Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel), Sep Vanmarcke (Bel).
Jumbo-Visma (Hol): Edoardo Affini (Ita), David Dekker (Hol, neo-pro), Pascal Eenkhoorn (Hol), Timo Roosen (Hol), Wout van Aert (Bel), Nathan Van Hooydonck (Bel), Maarten Wynants (Bel).
Lotto-Soudal (Bel): John Degenkolb (Ger), Frederik Frison (Bel), Roger Kluge (Ger), Tosh Van der Sande (Bel), Brent Van Moer (Bel), Florian Vermeersch (Bel, neo-pro), Tim Wellens (Bel).
Movistar (Spa): Imanol Erviti (Spa), Iván García Cortina (Spa), Juri Hollmann (Ger, neo-pro), Johan Jacobs (Swi, neo-pro), Lluís Mas (Spa), Mathias Norsgaard (Den), Gonzalo Serrano (Spa).
Qhubeka-Assos (SA): Victor Campenaerts (Bel), Dimitri Claeys (Bel), Michael Gogl (Aut), Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita), Emil Vinjebo (Den), Max Walscheid (Ger), Lukasz Wisniowski (Pol).
Trek-Segafredo (US): Koen de Kort (Hol), Ryan Mullen (Irl), Mads Pedersen (Den), Kiel Reijnen (US), Quinn Simmons (US, neo-pro), Jasper Stuyven (Bel), Edward Theuns (Bel).
UAE Team Emirates (UAE): Mikkel Bjerg (Den), Sven Erik Bystrom (Nor), Ryan Gibbons (SA), Alexander Kristoff (Nor), Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor), Rui Oliveira (Por), Matteo Trentin (Ita).
UCI Professional Continental teams . . .
Alpecin-Fenix (Bel): Dries De Bondt (Bel), Silvan Dillier (Swi), Jonas Rickaert (Bel), Oscar Riesebeek (Hol), Mathieu van der Poel (Hol), Otto Vergaerde (Bel), Gianni Vermeersch (Bel).
Arkéa-Samsic (Fra): Warren Barguil (Fra), Benjamin Declercq (Bel), Matis Louvel (Fra), Dan McLay (GB), Christophe Noppe (Bel), Clément Russo (Fra), Connor Swift (GB).
B&B Hotels p/b KTM (Fra): Frederik Backaert (Bel), Cyril Barthe (Fra), Bryan Coquard (Fra), Bert De Backer (Bel), Jens Debusschere (Bel), Jérémy Lecroq (Fra), Cyril Lemoine (Fra).
Bingoal-Wallonie Bruxelles (Bel): Timothy Dupont (Bel), Arjen Livyns (Bel), Mathijs Paasschens (Hol), Tom Paquot (Bel), Jelle Vanendert (Bel), Luc Wirtgen (Lux), Tom Wirtgen (Lux).
Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise (Bel): Ruben Apers (Bel), Cédric Beullens (Bel), Lindsay De Vylder (Bel), Arne Marit (Bel), Fabio Van Den Bossche (Bel), Jordi Warlop (Bel), Thimo Willems (Bel).
Total Direct Énergie (Fra): Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor), Damien Gaudin (Fra), Adrien Petit (Fra), Geoffrey Soupe (Fra), Niki Terpstra (Hol), Anthony Turgis (Fra), Dries Van Gestel (Bel).
Hello, good morning and welcome to our live rolling blog from the 105th edition of the Tour of Flanders, or De Ronde van Vlaanderen as the locals say.
As most of you will know, today's 254.3-kilometre jaunt from Antwerp to Oudenaarde is one of the most prestigious one-day races in the calendar and following last month's Milan-Sanremo is the second monument of the season. Following the postponement of Paris-Roubaix this cobbled classic has taken on added significance among those that make their living in these tough races.
For the locals, De Ronde is the biggest day in the Belgian sporting calendar and has been described as being like the Boat Race, Royal Ascot and the FA Cup final. All rolled into one. So as you can imagine, having no fans at the roadside today — or very few, at least — the race will, as we saw last year when Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) prevailed, feel a little quieter than usual.
In an effort to discourage spectators heading to the race due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis, organisers did not release a map or profile. However, all of the usual cobbled climbs — Molenberg, Koppenberg, Taaienberg, Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg — will feature, while a number of cobbled stretches of road are included.
The combination of narrow, twisty lanes, coupled with some brutish cobbled climbs — raced over a multitude of road surfaces — makes the Tour of Flanders, arguably, the most technical and toughest of all of the one-day races to win. Concentration is absolutely key to success here, while positioning on the climbs can make or break a riders' ambitions.